Proposed pipeline poses too much risk

Bellingham Herald
14 June 2003

ENERGY: Project could jeopardize marine environment, while running through residents' properties.

Just because the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave approval for a natural gas pipeline across Georgia Strait doesn't mean the project can, should or will become a reality.

The state Department of Ecology still has the power to declare the line from Cherry Point to fuel Vancouver Island too great an environmental risk.

This editorial board has never been in support of the joint project between Williams Pipeline Co. and BC Hydro. The line would run right though Whatcom County to serve Canada, giving us all the risk and none of the benefit.

Now that two other companies have offered alternative proposals using existing infrastructure, it makes little sense to jeopardize the marine environment off Cherry Point, which is home to one of the state's last spring-spawning herring stock. Herring are a food source for salmon, some species of which are now listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Terasen Gas Vancouver Island wants to increase the amount of gas that runs through its existing lower mainland pipeline to serve a power plant on the island or to power proposed co- generation plants at paper mills owned by NorskeCanada.

Williams Pipeline and BC Hydro's plan to build a $340 million pipeline known as GSX through Whatcom County would enter the county at Sumas, run through Cherry Point and across the strait to Vancouver Island. Not only would it cross through local residents' properties whether they liked it or not, it would involve extensive drilling that would bore a hole 100 feet below sea level and below state-owned tidelands.

Ecology said last week that it will require a more extensive environmental review that will include consideration of the options to use the existing Terasen line. Ecology also said it felt FERC's review left questions unanswered. Ecology holds the power to grant or deny permits necessary for the GSX project to go through.

BC Hydro officials say they would be happy to have both proposals go through and that the need for energy on the island won't decrease. While it's probably true that the need won't decrease, it's also true that energy alternatives and technological advances will continue to grow.

If increasing compression in the Terasen line is carefully evaluated and ruled to be a safe alternative, it makes sense to use the existing infrastructure rather than building a line that could cause environmental damage and might go the way of the coal-fired plant before it is truly needed.

Copyright Bellingham Herald
(Original Story no longer available online)

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